The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered one of the largest social experiments in history and virtually overnight, businesses across the world have been forced to rethink how they operate. Decisions made during this uncertain period will resonate for years and may serve as the base for a new, remote lifestyle post-pandemic.
Between socializing, parenting, running errands, and working, the pandemic has significantly altered the way we live our lives. For many people, the public health crisis has meant a sudden shift to remote work environments as officials stress the importance of social distancing.
All the employees face the challenge of finding the right work-life balance. The ability of employees to deal with the successful combining of work, family responsibilities, and personal life is crucial for both employers and family members of employees.
During the COVID-19 emergency, many people around the world were forced to work remotely. Initially, we observed certain expectations about the possibility of working from home as a positive factor that will promote work-life balance. However, over time, negative tendencies were also revealed, as employees were only one call or message away from the employer, and uncertainty and leisure time with family often created more stress. As many organizations and individuals were not ready for this sudden change, many mistakes were made, which further raised the issue of work-life balance.
It is high time to evaluate the flexibility of reconciling work and private life in various socio-demographic groups during the COVID-19 emergency and see how family life influenced employees’ ability to perform work duties, to find out if employees had any additional housework responsibilities and how their workload changed concerning housework amount during the COVID-19 emergency. We even noticed that children in the household more likely faced difficulties of work-life balance.
In our world of laptops, cell phones, and teleconferences, the intellectual and analytical tasks of “knowledge workers” can continue at home however low-wage workers increasingly are subject to similar expectations of responsiveness, even as they have less job security and even less flexibility than higher-paid workers. In the midst of this pandemic, store clerks, delivery drivers, and warehouse workers are now forced to be “ideal workers” too, risking exposure to the virus in public with little support for the families they leave while going to work.
While there are certainly benefits to working from home, the transition can be difficult, and finding balance within your life can become more complicated. COVID-19 has left us feeling burnt out, overworked, and stressed.
A recent survey of 7,000 professionals found that 73% of workers are burned out (compared to 61% pre-pandemic), and 27% report that it’s due to no separation between work and life.
When you work from home, it can be challenging to keep your work life separate from your personal life—even more so when everyone in your household is home all the time. And if you’re one of the fortunate ones whose company has experienced increased business during COVID-19, you may feel pressured to work even more than you would in an office, simply because your work is always there. This can lead to employee burnout, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
Some studies conducted all over the world show that most people have not improved their work-life balance during the emergency, even though they were able to spend more time with their families and did have to spend time to get to the workplace. For most people, the period of the COVID-19 emergency seemed more stressful as they spent more time in webinars and meetings and lacked “chatting” with colleagues. The division between family time and working time overlapped so much that they found it difficult to cope with. Moreover, the uncertainty about work and the future compounded the problem.
While women already did most of the unpaid care work in households before the pandemic, recent studies show that this load has increased dramatically due to the crisis. The negative effects on women and families are likely to last for several more years. What we usually call the “economy” would not be able to function without the (often unrecognized) work ensured by the care economy: providing daily living, cooking, and upbringing children.
Unpaid work accounts for 16.4 billion hours a day, three-quarters performed by women—as the International Labour Organization reports, this is equivalent to two billion jobs. Paid care work, 11.5% of global employment, encompasses 381 million workers, two-thirds of whom are women.
Better work-life balance when working at home
Finding the right work-life balance when working from home means both businesses and employees taking positive action. Here are the top tips on how each can play their part in promoting wellbeing for homeworkers.
• Encourage employees to use their annual leave
Working from home is no holiday, and a proper break will mean employees return refreshed and motivated.
• Be flexible
Where you can, allow employees to fit their working hours around important commitments, like childcare.
• Review workloads regularly
Make sure no one is suffering in silence at home.
• Recognise that every employee is different
Some may relish working at home, but others may be struggling.
• Offer perks for homeworkers.
• Provide employees with health insurance.
The concluding remarks will be about time management, and I would suggest that instead of leaving your calendar as a blank open slate for others to populate, set your time up to support getting work done. Every Friday, spend time plotting chunks of focused time in advance for you to meet the demands of the projects or responsibilities you’re managing for the next week. Treat the time as a locked meeting the same way you would if you were meeting others. Don’t tag it as tentative. You can always change the meeting if priorities are pushing for that time, but you want to stick to holding it for focused work as much as possible.
(The Author is an IT professional, currently working as Proposal Development Specialist at iQuasar Software Solutions. He can be mailed at: email@example.com)